I was honored with the task of making the coronation garb for HRM Timothy II and Ysmay II. They both found inspiration pictures that indicated the general design of the garb they wanted. Ysmay chose a painting of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Timothy chose the coronation gown of Roger II of Sicily. The photo on the left is the gown from Roger II. It has amazing embroidery around the cuffs and the bottom of the gown.
The photo on the left is the coronation gown of Eleanor of Aquitaine. It is similar to the gown of Roger II with the embroidered cuffs and wide contrasting fabric at the bottom. We originally had decided to have gold inkle trim on the border to separate the contrasting cuffs and hem. However, that plan didn't work out. I suggested just couching strands of gold for the border. So that is what I ended up doing.
We had decided on a black silk basic gown with a contrasting white silk keyhole at the neckline, and a contrasting red silk at the cuffs and at the bottom. After I couched the contrasting gold threads around the different colors, it seemed they gowns needed "more." By this time we realized that the coronation was not going to be until 27 June, which was several months away. So since I had the time, I decided to decorate the cuffs with an abbreviated version of the Roger II cuffs.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time discussing how I made the gowns, as they are very simple. I first made mock ups to check the fit, and sewed the basic gowns out of the black silk. Then machine stitched the keyhole neckline and guarnizione to the black gowns. I hand-stitched the outer edges to the gowns, and followed with couching 10 strands of Japan gold that I ordered from China to the edge between the two colors of silk. I left the cuffs off to embroider.
I started the embroidery by freehand sketching a similar design as was in the Roger II cuff. Its similar, not exact. I wanted to make something simpler, mostly for time. I knew I wouldn't have many months to work on the embroidery. I finished making the gowns and couching the Japan gold around the end of April. So I knew I had until 27 June when I started on the embroidery.
I creased the paper in half to transfer the design to the other side, to make sure the design was even. I drew it on a piece of regular paper, and then transferred the design to a piece of tracing paper.
I experimented with several types of transfer pencils and pens. But finally decided to baste around the design in a contrasting color. I pinned the design to the back of the cuff (you can see the interlining muslin), and then stitched around the design in a bright pink which stood out well against the red. Stitching around the design in this manner is a common way to transfer the design in goldwork. After the embroidery is complete, the paper is carefully torn away. However, I found the tracing paper I used did not tear as well as I thought it would. So if you are trying this, test your paper first. I left the paper on while I embroidered as I did have to refer to it occasionally to keep on the design.
Here you can see the basting on the right side of the fabric. It was a simple task to follow the design outlined in the pink.
I started outlining the design with pearls. I used 3mm Swarovski Crystal Passions Pearls that I ordered from Fire Mountain Gems. I used these instead of "real" pearls due to the volume I needed. I ended up sewing about 2,000 pearls on the two gowns. On the original design there were three layers of pearls in some of the figures. I simplified the design by making an outer layer of pearls, and then an inner layer. I free-handed the inner layer, as I wanted the final product to more closely resemble the original which was not perfect. To stitch on the pearls I started with bringing the needle up through the fabric on the line of the basting, and placed three pearls on my needle. I then put the needle back through the fabric, stitching down the three pearls.
To stitch on the pearls I used regular cotton/polyester Gutermann thread. I waxed the thread to provide extra strength. I started by bringing the needle up through the fabric on the line of the basting, and placed three pearls on my needle. I then put the needle back through the fabric, stitching down the three pearls.
I placed the pearls as close as possible to the previous pearls. However, note that there is a trick to this. If you put the needle down too close, the pearls will not lay flat. They will lie in an arc (as seen in the bottom set of pearls in the picture). Though sometimes its necessary to have a curved line if you are following a curved line.
I then couched between the pearls. Its important to keep the needle straight up and down (stab the fabric). And to come up and go down exactly on the line
Then pull the needle and thread through the end pearl and stab the needle through the fabric to the back. Be sure to do it in two moves. Don't try to cut corners!
I continued around the outline stitching down the pearls. You will find they are next to impossible to make into a perfect line, but that's ok. That is what extant examples look like.
Next up was the gold bullion. The gold bullion came from Tied to History. Gold bullion is very small, thin wire twisted to form a tube, and is close to what was used in the extant piece. It is a modern substitution.
This is the gold bullion. You can see how it is twisted in the section I pulled apart. I randomly cut the bullion into small pieces, and then put the needle through the tube to stitch it down.
Here you can see a close up of the bullion pieces. I chose random pieces that fit in the space. I tried to fit the pieces as close as possible to fit the space. However, like the pearls its near impossible to get perfect. So in the close-up you can see small spaces in between the purl.
When I finished the embroidery I machine stitched the cuffs to the sleeve, and hand stitched around the top of the cuff. I then couched the gold Japan thread along the red and black seam. If you carefully look at the original, you will noticed that I put the embroidery upside down from the original. I did that because without the other embroidery, it looked aesthetically better like this.
The finished product!